South Dakota Judge: Pro-Life Donation for Abortion Ban Can Be Secret

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 13, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Judge: Pro-Life Donation for Abortion Ban Can Be Secret Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 13,

Pierre, SD ( — A South Dakota judge has ruled that pro-life state Rep. Roger Hunt should have to identify who gave his corporation a large gift he transferred to the pro-life group seeking to uphold the state’s abortion ban. The $750,000 donation came under question for being sent to a company Hunt set up and then going to a pro-life group.

State voters rejected the ban last November though polls showed they would have supported an abortion ban with rape and incest exceptions.

Hunt, a Republican, is under fire for the donations he made from a business called Promising Future Inc. that he set up before the elections.

PFI received three donations of $250,000 each and he, in turn, made contributions to Vote Yes for Life, the organization that supported the abortion ban on the ballot.

South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long filed a civil complaint in the case asking a judge to determine whether the identify of the donor must be revealed.

Long maintained that South Dakota law defines a ballot question committee as a group consisting of two or more people who raise money to influence a ballot issue. He wanted to know if PFI qualified under the law.

Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Caldwell ruled that Hunt’s corporation Promising Future Inc. is not a “ballot question committee" and therefore isn’t legally obligated to release the name of a contributor in the way a ballot committee would.

“Even if PFI was formed with the motive of protecting the identity of the unnamed shareholder who wished to donate to VoteYesForLife, that does not mean that its conduct violated SDCL ch 12-25," Judge Caldwell wrote, according to the Argus Leader newspaper.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson told the newspaper the ruling surprised him but hadn’t decided if the state will appeal the case.

Hunt said he followed state campaign finance laws and questioned whether a corporation should be defined as a ballot question committee.

"A corporation basically, in many cases in our state laws and case law, is held to be one person," he told the Associated Press previously.

Hunt has previously said the money for the donations came from an anonymous donor who he has not identified. He says the donor is worried about possible backlash given the inordinate amount of vandalism that occurred when abortion advocates trashed hundreds of signs from the pro-life campaign.

Hunt may face political repercussions for the donation as well.

South Dakota state Rep. Dale Hargens, a Democrat, has called on the state legislature to discuss whether or not to revoke Hunt’s right to serve there for refusing to disclose the identity of the donor.

State voters rejected the abortion ban, which would prohibit all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother, on a 56-44 percentage margin.

Leslee Unruh, leader of the Vote Yes for Life group that promoted the abortion ban, doesn’t plan to give up.